730 - っけ

Rei always makes fun of me for forgetting stuff.

She'll say something like, "Hey, will you change the laundry?"

"Sure," I say, and I start walking toward the laundry room. Twenty minutes later she comes out and sees me reading a book on the couch or something.

"Did you change the laundry?"

"Ah!"

If I don't set an alarm, I'll forget to turn the oven off. If I don't add a task to my daily to-do list, I'll forget to do it. Sometimes I'll put a beer in the freezer, then set an alarm so I don't forget it. If I don't go and get the beer out of the freezer the second my alarm rings, I'll probably forget. "I'll do it in a minute" is my code for "I'll forget it in 14 seconds."

I'd like to think that I forget all of these things because I'm so busy thinking about other stuff. Or maybe there's something wrong with my brain — I don't know.

In any case, I find that this lesson's grammar point — though it is used for a slightly different flavor of forgetfulness — comes in handy quite a bit...


JLPT N3: っけ (...again? // was it... ?)

Your teacher is named Kobayashi-sensei.

A couple of weeks ago, Kobayashi-sensei told the class what his first name was.

So, "Kobayashi-sensei's first name" is a piece of information that should reside somewhere in your brain.

But you can't remember what his first name is!

You say to your classmate:


A:
小林先生の下の名前は何っけ
こばやし せんせい の した の なまえ は なん だ っけ。
What was Kobayashi-sensei’s first name, again?
Literally: “Kobayashi + sensei + の + first name (=below + の + name) + は + what + だ + っけ.”


...and your classmate responds with:


B:
翼じゃない?
つばさ じゃない?
Isn’t it Tsubasa?
Literally: “Tsubasa + isn’t it?”


See how っけ is being used?

The "piece of information" was summarized:

小林先生の下の名前は...
こばやし せんせい の した の なまえ は...
as for Kobayashi-sensei’s first name...
Literally: “Kobayashi + sensei + の + first name (=below + の + name) + は...”


And then it was shown that this information could not be recalled:

っけ
なん だ っけ。
what was (it), again?
Literally: “what + だ + っけ.”


All of this was put together to give us the full sentence:


小林先生の下の名前は何っけ
こばやし せんせい の した の なまえ は なん だ っけ。
What was Kobayashi-sensei’s first name, again?
Literally: “Kobayashi + sensei + の + first name (=below + の + name) + は + what + だ + っけ.”


You're a very young child.

Just the other day, you learned that some people are called girls and others are called boys. It was all very confusing.

You go up to your mom and say...


Child:
お母さん、お母さんって、女の子っけ、男の子っけ
おかあさん、 おかあさん って、 おんなのこ だ っけ、 おとこのこ だ っけ。
Mom, which are you, again? A girl or a boy?
Literally: “mother, + mother + って, + girl + だ + っけ, + boy + だ + っけ.”


Mother:
女の子に決まってるでしょ。
おんなのこ に きまってる でしょ。
A girl, of course.
Literally: “girl + に + is (being) decided + でしょ.”


To recap, the pieces of information that you are unsure about have っけattached to the end of them:

女の子だ → 女の子っけ
is a girl → is a girl? (I can't recall)

男の子だ → 男の子っけ
is a boy → is a boy? (I can't recall)


How do we make sentences with っけ, again?

*checks grammar books*

っけ can come after pretty much anything in plain form:

Plain Form Word っけ

For example, we have seen:

っけ

It's also pretty common to hear だったっけ.

I used to get really confused about which one I should use. I think the root of my confusion was the fact that in English we can use the past tense for sentences being translated from either っけ or だったっけ.

For example, I used "was" in our first translations, though I suppose I could have used "is," also:


小林先生の下の名前は何っけ
こばやし せんせい の した の なまえ は なん だ っけ。
What was Kobayashi-sensei’s first name, again?
Literally: “Kobayashi + sensei + の + first name (=below + の + name) + は + what + だ + っけ.”


But if you're talking about something that happened in the past that you can't remember now, だったっけ is a good choice.

For example, let's say that you and your significant other went to your friend Mari's birthday party last week, and you're having trouble remembering what day of the week it was. You could say:


マリの誕生日パーティーは何曜日だったっけ
マリ の たんじょうび パーティー は なんようび だった っけ。
What day was Mari's birthday party, again?
Literally: "Mari + の + birthday + party + は + what day of the week + だった + っけ."


Conversely, let's say that Mari's birthday party is later this week, but you can't remember what day it is. In this case, you could say either だったっけ or っけ


マリの誕生日パーティーは何曜日だったっけ
マリ の たんじょうび パーティー は なんようび だった っけ。
What day was Mari's birthday party, again?
Literally: "Mari + の + birthday + party + は + what day of the week + だった + っけ."


マリの誕生日パーティーは何曜日っけ
マリ の たんじょうび パーティー は なんようび だ っけ。
What day is [was] Mari's birthday party, again?
Literally: "Mari + の + birthday + party + は + what day of the week + だ + っけ."


In other words, it's the same as the English. I guess I have no excuse for getting confused by this.


Earlier, I said that this was our construction rule:

Plain Form Word っけ

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. Namely, っけ can also come after「V ました」and「でした」too. That's what we'll use in our next two examples.


A:
この間、ロシア語を習いたいと言っていましたね。
このあいだ、 ロシアご を ならいたい と いっていました ね。
The other day, you were saying that you wanted to learn Russian, weren’t you?
Literally: “the other day , + Russian (language) + を + want to learn + と + were saying + ね.”


B:
えっ、僕、そんなこと言いましたっけ
えっ、 ぼく、 そんな こと いいました っけ。
Huh? Did I say that?
Literally: “huh(?), + I, + that kind of + thing + said + っけ.”


Last example, and then you'll be done!


A:
あの同時多発テロが起きたのはいつでしたっけ
あの どうじ たはつ テロ が おきた の は いつ でした っけ。
When was it that those simultaneous terrorist attacks occurred, again?
Literally: “that + simultaneous + repeated occurrences + terrorism / terrorist attack + が + happened + の + は + when + was + っけ.”


B:
16年前ですよ。
じゅうろく ねん まえ です よ。
It was 16 years ago.
Literally: “16 + years + before + です + よ.”


I use っけ all the time. It's a very useful grammar point to master.

Try it out the next time you take a lesson with a Japanese teacher or do a language exchange. You are getting practice making Japanese sentences, aren't you?

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